Hurricane Irene: What To Expect In Southern New England

By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer

BOSTON (CBS) – In less than 24 hours, Hurricane Irene has grown from a Category 1 to a Category 3 hurricane, what is considered to be a “major” hurricane.

Check: Interactive Radar | Current Conditions | Weather Map Center

There is now a distinct eye at the center of Irene and further strengthening in the very warm waters of the Bahamas is likely.

Hurricane Irene: Check Latest Satellite Images | Tracking Map

Computer models have been fairly consistent, with no large swings in the forecasted track.

There is, however, a definite trend in the models over the last 24-to-48 hours. They continue to edge the track eastward with nearly every new run.

Most now have the eye of Irene staying over open water for its entire trip up the East Coast, making a close pass to the outer banks of North Carolina and then accelerating northward.

Since hurricanes gather most of their strength from the warm ocean water, if the eye of the storm does not make landfall before reaching our latitude it stands a very good chance of maintaining most of its power.

Hurricanes tend to undergo significant structural changes as they reach higher latitudes due to colder ocean water and stronger upper level winds which can tear these storms apart.

That is why Irene will likely begin to show signs of weakening as it nears us on Sunday night, but how much weakening and Irene’s exact track remain somewhat of a mystery.

With the eastward trend in the models, the current forecast now brings the center of Irene somewhere near Cape Cod late Sunday night, not to dissimilar from the track of Hurricane Bob back in 1991.


Here are some important things to keep in mind regarding the heaviest rain and strongest winds in a hurricane.

The most powerful winds are always on the east side (right side) of the storm.

So a track over or near Cape Cod would mean the strongest winds over the outer Cape and Islands.

The heaviest rainfall is almost always on the west side (left side) of the storm, so assuming the current forecasted track holds, the biggest issue from Irene for most of us in southern New England could be some very heavy rainfall.

Due to the tropical nature of the storm, 5-to-10 inches of rainfall wouldn’t be out of the question for those just to the west of the eye.


Another important consideration would be coastal flooding.

We have a new moon on Sunday, meaning tides will be astronomically high.

Watch Todd Gutner’s forecast:

The high tide to watch would be Sunday night (around 11:30 p.m.), again the track of the storm will play a big role in the eventual coastal flood threat, storm surge etc.

Keep in mind Irene is still more than four days away from making its closest pass at New England and a lot can happen between now and Sunday night.

We would urge you to start making preparations while staying tuned to the latest forecasts.

A lot can and will happen in the next 1,500 miles and 100 hours!

  • Andrea01602

    There goes the rsst of what little summer we had. People pulling boats early, and Cape Cod will be a ghost town on the last weekend before Labor Day. I hope the National Seashore doesn’t take a hit. Ugh. Bye summer 2011, you never really got started, and you are leaving us with Irene. Sigh.

    • tom

      Wish of safety to all.

      “I shall enumerate some of the evils of paper money and conclude with offering means for preventing them.” Words from the man who first said the words “United States of America”

  • biteme

    What are you talking about “goodbye summer, you never really got started.” This summer has had PHENOMENAL weather overall, and was sunny and seasonable for most of it!

  • emom

    Being prepared should be something all New Englanders should be. Sadly to many never head the warnings of our severe weather. I have been thru a few Hurricanes and Blizzards in which a power outage was the result. With that we would need many items for a few days or more. But for the life of me I just do not understand Why folks thinks stocking the freezer and fridge with foods is a good idea… Ok maybe in the winter time IT MIGHT be ok to stick in a cooler and throw in the snow… BUT DO YOU HAVE AT LEAST 6 VERY LARGE COOLERS,,,,,, If you have a regular fridge well a few coolers will be ok,,, BUT if you have a separate freeze and a fridge lets face it ,, stuff is going to spoil,,, If you must stock up on milk , eggs, butter, Yogurt???? ( yeah seen that one weird) Steaks, chicken, Frozen pizza’s, TV dinners (really,, ahh what about power if there is none??,) Yeah every year I see the grocery stores PACKED with folks with overflowing carts of foods that can and will spoil with out any power… half carts of meat and dairy…… Ok in the summer its going to spoil unless you use it up in about 2 days, winter IF you have something to put it in it will keep for longer…. YES put the food into a cooler,,,, there are still critters about that would love your food. Even a stray dog or cat will venture to take it…. There are more important items we need during a weather crisis,,,$100 IN MEATS IS NOT ONE OF THEM….

  • Ellen

    It was sunny and beautiful out earlier today, but now it’s dark clouds all over the place. Looks like Irene is now looking to come up here for a visit.


    The sky is falling! The sky is falling!!!

  • Massachusetts Prepares For Hurricane Irene - LOGO WORLD 2011 – LOGO WORLD 2011

    […] Related: Hurricane Irene – What To Expect […]

blog comments powered by Disqus
Taz Show
Download Weather App

Listen Live